This article comes from the M! 360 (September 2023).
MALAGA • In addition to stereoscopic 3D graphics and surround sound, motion capture, force feedback and haptic sensation are considered the key elements for realistic, immersive gaming experiences of the future. Around the world, people are working on peripherals that make screen action not only visible and audible, but also tangible. Approaches like the Teslasuit, which is equipped with biometric sensors, EMS and TENS, are in research use, but are still far too expensive and are therefore ignored by game manufacturers. A Ubisoft collaboration with the Spanish company OWO wants to change that. The partners announced in mid-July that “some of the top games” from Europe’s largest game group support OWO’s “Haptic Gaming System”, starting with Assassin’s Creed: Mirage.
OWO’s haptic system is a zipper vest that fits tightly like a second skin and works not with vibration, but with electrical impulses on ten regions of the upper body, back and arms. The battery-operated and wireless garment has been available for pre-order since the beginning of 2023 and, according to the manufacturer, works with the most successful VR and online games, including Half-Life Alyx, Beat Saber, Pistol Whip, Arizona Sunshine, Apex Legends, PUBG, CS Go, Rocket League, Valuing, Fortnite, Among Us and The Forest. PlayStation and Xbox, PC, smartphone and tablet players have to pay 500 euros for the “Founder” edition of the OWO system, which is limited to 2,000 pieces: an electrode-equipped top weighing just under 600 g (available in nine sizes), “OWO Device” (Bluetooth 5.2 transmitter, USB-C battery) and configuration app for Android, iOS and Windows, which serves as a remote control and for calibrating the individual electrodes and 30 different sensations. Depending on the application, the wearer feels “effects” (from insect bites to knife bites), “interactions” (handles, collisions, weapon recoils) and “impressions”, from the gentle breeze to free fall.
OWO calls the smallest unit of a haptic impulse a “microsensation” and puts several together in quick succession to simulate a firearm hit from the front or the bullet exiting the back. OWO electric shocks can also be used to create peaceful sensations, the manufacturers promise: caresses or a warm hug. The OWO Haptic Gaming System received the CES Innovation Award in 2022 and will then be shown at other trade fairs (these days in Hall 10.1 at gamescom), but so far no editorial team or influencer has the vest. The “ACM Edition Skin” and the collaboration with one of the best-selling action series could change that and bring haptics into the gaming mainstream.